Boeing got US regulatory approval to implement partially foldable wing tips on its newest 777 aircraft. The 777X family (777-8 and 777-9) will operate with the largest-ever wings created by Boeing and will feature the foldable wingtip in order for the aircraft to be able to park at existing airport gates.
Chicago-based Boeing is in the process of manufacturing the first 777X at its Everett factory in Washington. Once completed, the folding wingtips will be the most distinctive part of the aircraft — aside from its sheer size. While the aircraft is in the air, the wingtips will lie flat, however, once it touches down at its destination, the end of the wings will rotate upward. Because the wings are so large, Boeing opted for the design, the first-ever to be used widespread on a commercial aircraft, to allow it to be parked at existing gates.
Because the concept is so new and commercial aircraft design standards didn’t anticipate the product, US regulators had to come up with a new set, according to Bloomberg. On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration approved those special conditions for the foldable wings.
As part of the regulatory agreement, there are 10 conditions, including that there must be automatic warning systems in place so that pilots won’t attempt to take off with the wingtips in their upright position, as opposed to fully extended. In addition, as part of the approval, the FAA said that Boeing must also demonstrate that the wingtips could never be accidentally unlocked while in the air and that “no force or torque can unlatch or unlock the mechanisms.” Among the other conditions, the wings must be able to withstand gusts as high as 75 mph on the ground. Boeing said that the wings will have a set of locking mechanisms that will make it impossible for them to be rotated upward while in the air.
The approval from regulators is a big move for Boeing, which was already developing the wings in its Everett factory. (The process is currently on hold because building the structural ribs has taken longer than expected. It’s expected to be back on schedule by the summer.) Because the wings are made of carbon-fiber composites, rather than aluminum, Boeing can make the wings much larger than other 777 models — in fact, the width is 11% bigger than existing models. With the foldable wingtips, however, the 777X aircraft can fit in the same aircraft gates that currently can accommodate the smaller 777 models.
Featured image by Boeing.